Thursday, 28 June 2012

The New Journey

A couple of days ago Mama embarked on the Journey. She’d been talking about it for a while, about the Train that she had to catch. But she hesitated for a long time on the platform. The idea of getting on board and leaving everything familiar behind must have been more than she could contemplate. Scary, because though you hold a ticket, you can’t read the destination that’s printed on it. Our material brain, wired for survival at all costs, fights the notion of embracing the unknown.

Rose, her sisters Tosia and Marynia 1928?

Children of Polish gentry in their daily garb

 Finally she opened the door and got on the train. In the preceding months, during her more lucid moments she talked more often about the coming journey.

 “Those are my things,” she said pointing to the chairs in the room, the photos on the wall, the dining table and the china plates hanging on the wall.

 “Yes,” I said.

 “I will not be taking them with me.

 “You won’t.”

 She looked at me steadily. “I won’t need them.”

 At another time she called me urgently to her side. She knew who I was.

 “Where is Theresa?”

 I told her that my elder sister was in Edinburgh. She’d be coming over in a few days.

 “And Munia?”

 “She’s in Ecuador.”

 “When is she coming?”

 “In mid July.”

 At that, Mama grew more agitated and said, “That’s far too late.”

 The conversation wasn’t a one off. She'd had it a few days earlier with Amber.

 Sometimes she opened the door of the train but then drew back. A month ago, dehydrated from not drinking enough she was admitted to hospital. She had a bad infection. The doctor felt that she only had days to live. We called Munia and asked her to fly over from Ecuador.

 I felt that Mama needed to be aware of what was going on. While she lay in the hospital bed, smiling at me, I said, “Mama, you are seriously ill. You’re dying.”

“No,” she said, emphatically, adding silently that I was talking nonsense. Imagining some rubbish.

 “You ARE dying,” I said.

 She gave me a wave of her hand to say, “Oh rubbish. There you go again, you silly."

 Did she know something the rest of us didn’t know?

 A few days later she staged, yet again, a miraculous recovery. Started eating and drinking. The doctors were left scratching their heads. She didn’t talk much after that, lay quietly looking at another world. Sometimes she’d return, smile at us, and even say something briefly.

 She always reacted to Father Jim MacManus who visited her when he was in town. She greeted him with the broadest of smiles and reached out to him. Her last words to him were, “I am very, very happy.”

Munia, Mama and the great grandchildren

 And so on Monday morning while Munia recited a few prayers to her, Mama took a last breath. She got onto the train. The door closed behind her. When Amber and I reached her house, we saw her lying on her bed, apparently asleep. A beautiful aura filled the room, a feeling of blessedness that did not appear to emanate from a human source. The oppressive atmosphere of fear and anxiety that had hung around her bed in previous weeks was gone. I sat beside her as before and drank in that benediction.